A smoothie is a great way to add a lot of nutrients into your diet. They can fill you up, provide a lot of fiber, protein and vitamins. You can make a smoothie in so many different flavor combinations that there is sure to be a smoothie combination that you will love. Smoothies can be enjoyed for breakfast, for a snack or even as part of your lunch.

Some people are not a fan of using protein powder in their smoothie because of the flavor. Others avoid it for  health reasons. The FDA classifies protein powders as health supplements. That means that there are no laws governing their safety and labeling. 

While many protein powders do contain plant-based ingredients such as soybeans, eggs or milk, they may also contain added sugars and artificial flavoring, thickeners, vitamins and minerals. The added sugars range from negligible to up 24 grams per scoop, which can turn a healthy smoothie into a sugar bomb. As a nutritionist, I think that protein powders should not be used in excess, but I do use them sparingly. It can cause GI upset for some people, but not all. Too much protein can also be associated with problems. And while I do not discourage people from using them, I  tell them that they do not need a huge amount of protein in everything that they eat like some people think they do.

To complicate matters, recent research from the Clean Label Project and Consumer Reports found that many popular brands of protein powders contained heavy metals. Experts reason that plants absorb  toxins found in the soil naturally or through fertilizers or pesticides, and those plants are turned into protein powders. So if you’re looking for a natural way to add protein to your protein powder, here are ten ways to do it. 

Ways to Make a Protein Packed Smoothie Without Protein Powder

1. Milk

The most obvious way to add protein to a smoothie without adding in any protein powder is by adding milk. Cow’s milk and soy milk are your best bets for a protein-packed liquid addition. One cup of milk has 8 grams of protein.


2. Peanut butter

Peanut butter gives an amazing flavor to smoothies while adding protein, fiber and healthy fats. Berries tastes great with peanut butter, and so do bananas. A two-tablespoon serving has  eight grams of protein.

3. Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt is loaded with protein (and calcium!) making it a great addition to a smoothie. It also helps to thicken up your smoothie without using ice. A 200 gram serving (just under a cup) of Greek yogurt provides about 20 grams of protein.  

4. Silken tofu

Tofu in a smoothie? Yep! The silken variety of tofu provides about 4 grams of protein per serving. It doesn’t contribute to the flavor of the smoothie and just adds a nice silky texture. 


5. Chia seeds

Chia seeds are probably best known for their omega-3 fatty acid content and for being high in fiber but they do contain some protein as well. If you let them sit in the smoothie for a bit after blending, they will soak up the liquid a bit more and become softer. One oz. of chia seeds has 4.7 grams of protein.  

6. Ground flax seeds

Another omega-3 rich option is ground flax seeds. Watch out how much you add though because this can slightly change the flavor of the smoothie as it has a bit of an earthy flavor. A tablespoon of ground flaxseed, contains 1.9 grams of protein. 


7. Peanut butter powder

Similar to peanut butter, peanut butter powder adds a great peanut butter flavor to your smoothie. It is much lower in fat and calories than actual peanut butter and has 5 grams of protein per 2 tablespoon serving.


8. Cottage cheese

Similar to using a plain Greek yogurt in a smoothie, cottage cheese blends in really well for a boost of protein. Each 1/2 cup serving has about 13 grams of protein. The only downside is that this option is higher in sodium than most of the other options.


9. Oats

If you want a thicker texture in a smoothie, almost doughy, then add some oats to your smoothie. Oats are rich in fiber and have a decent amount of protein- 4 grams per 1/3 cup serving. If you have the time, soak them in water ahead of time so that they will blend into your smoothie more easily.



10. Kale or spinach

Aren’t kale and spinach veggies? Yes, but kale and spinach actually contains some protein and when combined with another protein source, adds even more protein to your smoothie. Spinach has about 2 grams of protein while kale has about 3 grams. Adding ripe banana to your smoothie offsets some of the flavor of the kale. The spinach will blend in well with almost any flavor of smoothie.


There you have it, 10 different ways to add protein to your smoothie without adding any protein powder. These foods are affordable, nutritious and help you make a protein packed smoothie that is delicious to drink. Here’s four more smoothie recipes that incorporate natural sources of protein that you might enjoy. 

— Amanda Hernandez, MA, RD of The Nutritionist Reviews



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